Our risen and ascended Savior continues to see to the needs of his people around the world, including their need for faithful shepherds. The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) Team sees these blessings every day as it coordinates the theological training of non-traditional students in North America and partners with sister churches around the world.
This year’s graduation and call day service at the seminary was held virtually on Ascension Day. The graduating class included two PSI students, Qiang Wang and Simon Duoth. For most of the 2019-2020 academic year, we were also blessed to have Michael Simarmata on our campus.
Qiang (pronounced “Chung”) had been Buddhist all his life. After a successful career as a businessman in China, Qiang and his wife Susan immigrated to Vancouver in 2013. They were looking for a change of pace, more family time, and an education for their son. God had much more in mind; he kept sending Qiang believers who were pointing him to Christ. Qiang began reading the Bible more closely in order to find fault with the Christian faith and give an answer to the “crazy people.” As he read, the Word of God changed him. The Holy Spirit opened his eyes to see the glory of the Son of God.
After being baptized in another Christian church, Qiang later met Rev. Geoff Cortright from Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver. They studied the Bible together, and Qiang was received as a member by adult confirmation. In 2016, Qiang began serving as an evangelist in the church and enrolled in the PSI program. In December of 2019, Qiang graduated from the program. The following month he was ordained and commissioned as an exploratory pastor at Abiding Love in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver.
The man who once thought that the gospel was foolish now preaches that foolishness with confidence and joy. We pray that God will lead many more to righteousness through Rev. Qiang and his wife, Susan.
Simon was born into the Nuer tribe in what is now called South Sudan. He became a refugee when Muslims from the northern part of Sudan initiated civil war by attacking the Christians and traditional animists in the southern part. As a refugee in 1983, Simon first lived in Ethiopia, near Gambella. That same year he married Nyalual Tuoch. Ten years later they and their children moved to a refugee camp in Kenya. In 1994, they came to the U.S.
Simon received some theological training in Africa and has always thought of himself as a Lutheran leader. In 2012, through the encouragement of Rev. Peter Bur and Rev. Mark Schewe, Simon joined Holy Trinity, Des Moines, Wash. Simon is currently serving under the Pacific Northwest District Mission Board, as he shepherds Nuer people in Des Moines, Renton, and other parts of the district, including Canada.
Prof. Sorum remarks, “Simon’s character has been refined in a crucible of testing. In my years of knowing him, traveling to many places with him, serving with him, and teaching him, I have always seen him as a calm, humble, loyal, faithful, and mission-minded man. He has a Lutheran heart. Simon is a wonderful team player. His humility and desire to get the job done make him a great travel and mission partner. I find him to be courageous and relentless. Like Rev. Peter Bur, Simon has a strong desire to get the true gospel to all of the Nuer refugees who are scattered around the world.”
Simon completed his PSI training in May 2020, was ordained as a pastor in June, and will continue to serve under his district mission board.
Michael, from Sumatra, completed his seminary training and a year of internship in Gereja Lutheran Indonesia
(GLI). To build on that training and to strengthen the relationship between our churches, it was decided that Michael would take a year of classes at the seminary. Michael arrived in August 2019. It took a while for him to adjust to the cooler temperatures and to constant English, but his big smile and positive attitude were obvious from the start. Because of coronavirus he had to return to Indonesia sooner than expected, but his time here provided mutual blessings.
Michael’s classmate Christian Willick comments, “Michael’s English improved dramatically. He increased his knowledge of Greek and church history, and he experienced a new part of the country when he helped with mission work in Dallas over winter break. But it would also be fair to say that I learned a lot from Michael. He taught me bits of Indonesian culture and his native language Bahasa. His example of positive persistence to thrive in a new setting motivated me for my first year at seminary, and he also opened my eyes to the severe persecutions against Christians in his country. It was a new and humbling perspective, and it has prompted my prayers for fellow Christians in that part of the world.”
Another classmate John Jordan, who comes from South Asia, remarks: “One time we were talking about how our Asian cultures can be superstitious, and I was telling Michael that many churches in my home country preach about miracles all the time. That was when Michael asked me to think about the biggest miracle in my life. I was not sure how to answer, so I told him I have not really seen any miracles. Then he reminded me that Jesus Christ died for me on the cross and that the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see him as my Savior. Michael encouraged me to focus on these miracles. His simple words were very profound and will always stick with me.”
Finally, classmate Joel Hopper says, “Michael said that the most influential experience of his time at the seminary was the Christian fellowship. He was grateful to witness and be part of the special Christian brotherhood we share. He saw the whole seminary family working together as one in Christ, helping each other, laboring towards the same goal of proclaiming Christ to the world; students working with students, with professors, with staff. He regularly reminded us how privileged we are to have such gifted and faithful Christian mentors, how blessed we are to have free and easy access to every resource necessary in our study of God’s Word. We take so many of God’s blessings for granted, and he regularly helped to open my eyes to these blessings. Michael is such a joyful, energetic, and funny guy. We shared many laughs, meals, and late nights. We prayed, we praised, and we studied. God built a friendship in Christ that now spans the globe. I am eager to see how God will use Michael to bring just as many blessings to Indonesia as he did to us in America. Praise be to Christ for this glorious partnership we share in the gospel.”
We give thanks for Qiang, Simon, and Michael, and we pray for the Lord’s continued blessings on their lives and ministries.
Professor Bradley Wordell teaches Old Testament and serves on the Pastoral Studies Institute Team with Professor E. Allen Sorum and Reverend Jonathan Bare. This article first appeared the 2020 issue of Preach the Gospel.